Restaurant review: at Sushi Kanesaka at 45 Park Lane, Japan’s elegant side graces London

Grouper with a wash of irizake sauce, an arrangement of ghost-white squid sushi, and a bowl of tile fish that’s been steamed and then placed within its own soup – it’s a taste of somewhere else

Everything you hope for at a Japanese omakase is, somehow, all there on Park Lane: the counter hewn from a single block of hinoki wood, the rigid lineup of bentwood chairs, the shoji screens that at once let a soft light in but also create a firewall between the outside world and the soft joys of the dining room, the quiet grace of the yanagi slashing through long blocks of tuna. Every bite of vinegared rice, wasabi and fish is suspended for just a split, blissed-out second. The eyes roll towards the back of the head.

For the first-time visitor to London, Park Lane may be known as that dark-blue bit of high-toned real estate on the Monopoly board, an outstretched avenue flanking the eastern side of Hyde Park that’s home to souped-up G-Wagens, a stable of great hotels and costly residences that were once the realm of the oligarchs. There’s the hours of great eating at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, and Wolfgang Puck’s team still does lustworthy things with meat and flames at Cut.

The entrance to a dining room at Sushi Kanesaka


Sushi Kanesaka at 45 Park Lane, the Ginza import that’s known to restaurant chasers as perhaps the most expensive reservation in the UK, has quickly become the marquee hit in this part of town. Whereas The Aubrey has a sort of izakaya-on-steroids spirit, Endo Kazutoshi, a hero of the sushi dimension, continues to remix the classics, and The Araki’s sheen has been dulled ever since its spiritual leader, Mitsuhiro Araki, departed in 2019, Sushi Kanesaka has been the draw for those looking to get a taste of Kyoto or Tokyo in their most traditional form. The fish here is cured in the Edomae style, the menu is shaped around Japan’s 72 micro-seasons, and sake is poured into Horiguchi Kiriko’s hand-cut glasses. Cherry blossom may appear on the menu at the end of March, daikons are likely to turn up in winter.

Following a teenage dedication to baseball, Shinji Kanesaka committed his life to the rigours of the Japanese kitchen, building his bones for roughly a decade in Tokyo, before opening in Ginza, in 2000, the neighbourhood remarkable for its wildly expensive dining and retail. He gained the stars, he imprinted his name on glitzy hotels, an endless obsession – what the Japanese call being a shokunin – with craft, balance and elegance runs through his establishments.

Squid sushi with beluga caviar

The flow at Sushi Kanesaka at 45 Park Lane, one of his latest outside Japan, is a seamless experience, beginning first with the chawanmushi – a steamed egg custard thick with scallop and crab – that appears suddenly on your plate, then the stream of sushi that follows: marinated akami, the lean, scarlet piece of tuna; the medium-fatty cut of the same fish; and a whole scallop wrapped in a sheet of thin seaweed that’s been quickly fanned on the grill.

Meals of this kind can often have a man cowering behind the blanket of his smartphone. You’ll be welcomed by name – drop-ins are as off-limits as a Drake T-shirt at a Kendrick Lamar gig – and you’ll be swept from the blizzard of traffic outside to a room that’s barely the size of a six-person office and is clean with bamboo and cedar, the odd touch of aged granite and beautiful vases of ikebana. There will be a handful of strangers on either side of you. And the oshibori placed in front – a lightly scented hand towel that’s a linchpin of Japanese hospitality – is a sort of signal of the focused, unblemished evening ahead. Some sparkling sake will likely be offered. The splay of yanagi blades will be lined up neatly on a cutting board, like necklaces in a De Beers window. And the chef will have the serious, reveal-nothing expression of a seasoned Vegas tablegoer throughout the duration of the meal. Produce that could strain the current-account limit will be rapidly placed down on the plate. And you will submit.

Head chef Hirotaka Wada

Various cuts of tuna

Depending on your day, there might be grouper with a wash of irizake sauce, made by mixing sake with bonito flakes and pickled plums; an arrangement of ghost-white squid sushi, spooned with a little hit of beluga caviar; and a bowl of tile fish that’s been steamed and then placed within its own soup. Head chef Hirotaka Wada, once the lead at Sushi Kanesaka Palace Hotel Tokyo, dictates the rhythm, slicing fish – smash-hits, such as o-toro, but lesser-coveted cuts, too, such as the umami-rich alfonsino and the oily glories of mackerel – with movements that seem as fluid as the cycles of nature, moulding rice into small bricks, massaging wasabi root on sharkskin. There will likely be a sous who parades a plate of Kobe beef, before it’s grilled on the binchotan until its upper inches are browned and the inside remains crimson.

Is the dessert of in-season fruits – perhaps a few segments of musk melon, the soft flesh collapsing into honeyed juice, or a small assembly of shapely strawberries folded into a daifuku – the perfect ending?

In some ways, yes.

“Oishii!” – delicious! – you involuntarily beam back once the sweets hit your mouth, interfering with the unwavering silence.

The chef breaks a little smile. Victory is yours.

Want more restaurant content? Read our review of Claridge’s Restaurant…

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